Kids in Worship

Or, A Father Who Knows His Children

Scripture: Psalm 103:13-14

Date: January 8, 2017

Speaker: Sean Higgins

Where does God want worshippers to come from? The easiest answer is: everywhere. “Everything that has breath praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6) “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the LORD” (Psalm 148:11-13). The Great Commission is to make disciples of all the nations. The apostle John saw “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

When Paul preached to the Greeks in Athens he said that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). God wants worshippers to come from among the unbelievers, the disobedient, the ungrateful, the idolators, the rebels. This means that God wants worshippers to come from conversion, as men turn “from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

But God also wants worshippers to come from fathers. We could say families, that’s fine, but Paul told children to obey their parents and then he specifically told fathers, “do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). What is the goal of such discipline and instruction? Good morals? Bible knowledge? Kinda, sorta. The goal is to raise children to be worshippers of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is an area where our Baptistic background betrays disobedience to the Bible. We think that a person needs to be at a certain point before he can worship. And, sure. An idolator must first repent from idolatry and then turn to worship the true God. But young kids, the ones in a house with Christian parents, would only know idolatry if their parents taught it to them. Our kids do not believe out of the womb, but that doesn’t mean that we raise them by keeping our spiritual hands off until they reach an adult crisis point where they can finally decide for themselves. That’s disobedient to Ephesians 6:4. We raise our children to believe, and that means that their conversion will look different than those growing up in an unbelieving home.

So as we’re talking about our worship and liturgy at the beginning of our seventh year together, I want to talk about kids in worship. We considered the liturgy of prayer last Lord’s Day and this morning we’ll have one more message about worship before restarting Genesis next week.

The pastors at TEC have consciously chosen to include kids in our worship. This is not because it’s the way we’ve always done it, far from it. It is not because we think Sunday School and Children’s Church is straight from the pit per se. It is not even because we think that families must always be together. It is because we think fathers have the responsibility to raise worshippers and worshipping does not start at age 13, 16, 18, or 21.

Success in bringing up our kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will look like them in worship. That means we should include them in worship, lead and show them how to worship, explain along the way why we worship and why we worship the way that we do, and worship with them as younger brothers and sisters in the Lord. Again, the Lord calls all creatures to worship Him, even the inanimate ones (like the sun, moon, shining stars, and highest heavens - Psalm 148:3-4), so certainly He expects worship from the immature ones.

There are numerous metaphors to describe the Church: Bride, Body, Temple, Flock, and also Family. In this family we have a Father and an older Brother. When we meet as a family, we come to honor our Father. As Jesus taught us to pray, we begin with esteem for our heavenly Father’s holy name. The Father has a kingdom that we’re a part of as more then citizens; we’re heirs. The Father has a will that we long to see accomplished. The Father gives us bread. The Father forgives our sin and protects us from evil.

We get all kinds of good from our Father in heaven and, in this respect, we are all kids in worship. As His children, He gives the good of His presence. He gives the good of loving correction and restoration. He gives the good of truth and instruction. He gives the good of food and a place at His table. He gives the good of joy and then even the good of assigning us jobs.

Did you hear our liturgy in there? Call, confession, consecration, communion, and commission. In all these things the Father is giving us Himself. He is present with His family. He encourages His kids.

The parallel passage to Ephesians 6:4 is Colossians 3:21. Paul wrote both of these letters from prison around the same time. To the Colossians church he likewise addressed children—meaning that he assumed they were present when the letter was read in public—to obey their parents and then the fathers.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)

It’s interesting that he said what not to do in order that something else not happen. Don’t provoke discouragement. To be discouraged is to have the heart (with the Latin word cor as “heart” in the middle of our English word) drained, to reverse heart. What is the opposite?

This what I pray for as a father: that God would enable me to stir up my kids to hope. I want my kids to have large and full hearts. I want them to be encouraged, at least in the end if not a lot in the process along the way.

And isn’t this what our heavenly Father does when we meet with Him here? He fills our hearts with who we are. We are the crown of His creation, given dominion and called to bear His image on earth (call). Though we failed and continue to fail to do that, He fills our hearts with peace as He declares us free from sin, from the law, from death in Christ (confession). Then He continues to fill our hearts with wisdom, renewing our minds by His words so that we can live well (consecration). Then He fills our hearts with food at the Table (communion). Then He filled our hearts with strength and vision and purpose: to work in His name (commissioning).

Throughout the entire service the Father crowns us with His steadfast love and mercy, satisfying us with good (see Psalm 103:4-5).

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalm 103:13–14, ESV)

If this is what our Father in heaven does when we worship, then this is what each father on earth should be seeking to give to his children in worship as well. Two fathers give during worship, or they should. And those who aren’t fathers should understand, appreciate, help, and certainly not attack those who are trying.

I get that this is a different way of thinking about it, and it is challenging. There are some bona fide difficulties with kids in worship that may (or may not) be tackled with a good attitude. So let me address two of them.

First, “Kids distract me from worship. I can’t focus.” These might be your own kids, or someone else’s kids in the row behind you. My first recommendation is: put your phone away, then you’ll only have 2/3rds the distractions. If your phone is 1/3rd, and your fatigue/bills/pot roast in the oven at home is another 1/3rd, and kids are 1/3rd, then deal first with the one that you can control to sit quietly in your pocket.

That still leaves some distraction caused by kids. But kids also distract me from eating, or talking to my wife or our guests at dinner. So I have to ask myself, What do I want? I want my kids to eat and enjoy, which means I’ve got to learn how to do more than one thing at a time. It also means that there are times when I tell them to hold their comments for later.

Second, “Kids can’t understand everything that’s happening or being said and sung.” So, answer honestly: do you understand everything that’s happening here? God is the only one who can claim that, and He calls all of us to praise Him anyway. Kids can do that at their level, like you do at yours. If it’s okay that we need to keep growing, then it’s okay that our kids do, too, just 20 steps behind us.

And if you recognize something they should really get, you tell them. You be the pastor. You be the theological exegete. You be the spiritual hero. “Dad, what did the bearded guy mean?” “Oh dad, you’re the best. I wish you could be the preacher.”

For me, the kids-in-worship problem is much more a me problem. It is my lack of understanding what is supposed to be happening, my failure to be ready, or help them get ready, or my laziness to lead them the whole time. With other people’s kids I don’t have the same control—not at all—but I can work on my gladness of what the Father is giving.

Here are some suggested, non-Scriptural, helps through trial and errors to give encouragement to your kids in worship.

  • Start preparing on Saturday evening. Have a nice(r) dinner, sing before dinner, ask your kids what they are looking forward to about Sunday morning. Encourage answers even about seeing their friends (isn’t great that they have church friends?). Have them take a long bath or shower. Lay out the clothes for the morning. Wear special jammies. Tell them why. Worshipping the Lord on the Lord’s Day is good.
  • Choose a reasonable amount of crayons, and probably not 128 permanent pew-marking markers, for working on the Kids’ Korner. Tell them to use the Kids’ Korner and also to use it during the time that they might be most bored, which probably isn’t during the singing or kneeling. Tell them why. Coloring can praise God. He made colors, and fingers. Choose reasonable toys, less velcro straps and sirens.
  • Bring small candy to share, partially unwrapped perhaps, or some gum. Tell them why. God’s Word is sweet like honey.
  • Let them sit on your lap for some of it. Your sermon notes will have a 15-20 minute gap, so go online on your phone and listen to it later. What an amazing day we live in. Put your arm around their shoulder. Tell them why. God loves His children.
  • Practice sitting still at home. Have “blanket time,” and start at five minutes and increase it every few weeks. Sitting still quietly is a life skill. Tell them why.
  • Don’t pout and cringe at every song you don’t like, unless you want them to think that pouting and cringing are fruit of God’s Spirit helping you worship.
  • Don’t glare at your son every time he makes an accidental noise, or even if he makes an intentional one. Your Father shows mercy, show mercy (and patient, loving discipline) as a reflection.
  • Don’t keep trying to make your colicky baby stay in the whole time. There’s not a law about minutes in the service equalling less years in purgatory (first of all because their is no purgatory). We have a nursery for kids up to a certain age. Using it isn’t necessarily a compromise.
  • Talk to your kids about who they are, about the place of worship in shaping who they are.


When you got married and you thought about reproduction, did you realize that reproduction is not only a moment of intimacy but a life of sharing yourself? As Christians, we know we are made to be worshippers, and the One who calls us to worship Him calls us to raise worshippers of Him.

If that’s not how you think about it when your head pops off the pillow in every Sunday morning, sure. So start now. Ask your Father in heaven for help. He knows your frame. You’re one of His kids. He’s brought you to appreciate and be filled from worship. How did that happen? Have you shared that or shown that to your kids?

God is developing worshippers of all shapes and sizes and ages. Our Father in heaven knows His children and calls them to praise Him. Stand! Sing! Kneel! Pray! Listen! Obey!

See more sermons from the Our Worship 2017 series.